I want my baby to have an early bedtime, I really do. But not being a morning person my whole life, I always fear the earlier bedtime would mean my baby will be screaming her ears out at 5 am!
But then I spiral down the rabbit hole of ‘mom guilt’ for not establishing an ‘ early to bed, early to rise’ routine because I know it has plenty of benefits for the baby.
Until I read somewhere that early bedtime doesn’t necessarily mean an early rise time. In fact, it helps the baby sleep longer, but is there any truth to it? Let’s find out!
Does an earlier bedtime for babies mean they sleep longer?
Yes, it does. If you put a baby to bed early, chances are she’ll sleep better, bedtime will be peaceful and midnight awakenings will be less, overall she would sleep longer with an early bedtime routine than with a late bedtime schedule.
If you put a baby to bed at a late hour thinking it would log in more hours of sleep for her, think again.
The more tired a baby is at bedtime, the more they will wake during the night because as it happens an overtired body secretes alerting hormones, it’s like an adrenaline rush kicks in. The ‘sleep-in’ you are looking for doesn’t happen until a child is at least six years old.
Is an earlier bedtime better?
Earlier bedtime has a lot of benefits and is definitely better. There are studies and research that back up this claim.
Let’s see how and why an earlier bedtime is better.
A healthier child:
According to a Japanese research, 18 MOs with later bedtimes are more at risk of motor, language, and social deficits. Late bedtime can impact performance in schools as well because children who go to bed late are less alert during morning classes.
An early bedtime on the other hand results in a healthier socially adept child.
Better for mental health:
There is plenty of research that indicates an early bedtime routine is good for not just physical health but also mental well-being.
Reut Gruber, a researcher at McGill University in Canada and director of the Attention, Behavior and Sleep Lab at the Douglas Mental Health University Institute said
“An early bedtime benefits a child’s physical health, as well as mood and mental health because it allows time for restorative sleep, which is important for the repair and recovery of the brain and the body”
“Regular bedtime routines, including an early bedtime, also are linked to fewer sleep problems such as nighttime awakenings or difficulty falling asleep.”, said Sarah Anderson, an associate professor of epidemiology at Ohio State University’s College of Public Health.
However, generally, more importance is given to getting sufficient hours of sleep than the time at which babies go to bed.
Dr. Sumit Bhargava, clinical associate professor of pediatrics at the Stanford University School of Medicine and sleep physician at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital said “a child’s bedtime is not nearly as important as the amount of sleep he or she is getting each night,”
Obesity and late bedtime routine:
According to a study published in the journal of pediatrics, obesity is linked to late bedtimes.
It looked at the data conducted on 977 persons and concluded that only 10 percent of the preschool-aged children who used to go to bed early (at 8 pm) were obese in adolescence as compared to 23 percent of those children who followed a late bedtime schedule (after 9 pm).
What happens if you put a baby to bed too early?
It means they wake up early too, but the total stretch they would sleep would be longer than when you put them to bed late.
Even if a 5 pm to 5 am routine works for you, you can go for it, whatever rocks your boat!
How to shift the baby’s bedtime routine earlier?
One of the easiest ways to shift the bedtime routine earlier is by gradually moving it a bit early each day. A window of 15 to 20 minutes is ideal for moving back.
If you usually begin the bedtime routine at 9 o’clock, start it by 8:45 the next day and 8:30 the next until you reach the bedtime to your liking.
How do I get the baby to sleep longer at night?
Almost all babies follow an erratic sleep schedule during the first few weeks after birth.
You can follow these steps to encourage your baby to sleep longer.
Set a consistent bedtime routine:
Most babies love routine. So try to develop a consistent and early bedtime routine.
Do bath time, storytime, or lullaby time. Snuggle in some kisses and cuddles.
Start the bedtime routine before they are overtired.
Put them down when they are drowsy but awake. This may help them fall asleep on their own. When babies start to fall asleep independently, chances are they will sleep longer.
Feed them well:
Do I even have to say it? A well-fed baby will wake up less for feedings. Feed them before you start the bedtime routine and make sure they have eaten well and burped too.
Give them a pacifier may be:
Pacifiers have been known to help babies with their sleep. Babies love sucking, enter pacifiers.
According to research, another benefit of using a pacifier is that it reduces the risk of SIDS.
In a nutshell
Most babies are pretty low maintenance if you think about it. Keep those tiny little humans fed, dry, warm, and cozy; they are good for the day.
Get them hooked on a bed routine and you are sorted for the nights too. Early bedtimes are best for the baby and ensure a restful long sleep.
But it’s also OKAY if you can’t stick to an early bedtime routine because of various reasons.
What’s most important is that the babies catch plenty of sleep according to their age.
Is 6 pm too early for baby bedtime?
It depends on when you want your baby up in the morning. If it works for you, go for it. 6 pm is an absolutely fine time to put the tiny ones in bed, they will have a nice long peaceful sleep.
When do babies sleep from 7 pm to 7 am?
At around 4 months of age, your baby will be able to sleep through the night because they don’t need frequent feedings anymore. If you put them down at 7 pm and they are sleep trained, most likely they will be up at around 7 am.
Babies who are cutting teeth or have colds or ear infections or restlessness from any other condition, might not be able to sleep through the night.
What to do if the baby falls asleep earlier than bedtime?
Aren’t we all been there, at one time or another? Right when the baby starts getting drowsy an hour or two before bedtime and you can’t do a thing.
Or maybe you can do something like start dancing or singing the first cue you get through their yawning, and fluttering of eyelids or pulling at ears.
If they’re already gone down for a nap just before bedtime, pray they will pull it through the night. Or if they wake up, move up the bedtime by an hour or two.
When do babies start going to bed earlier?
It’s hard to stick to a routine or schedule with a newborn. Newborns tend to go to sleep by 9 pm or later. By the 6th week, you can start establishing an early bedtime routine with them.
Should I keep the baby awake before bedtime?
Newborns should be left to their own devices. Let them sleep as much as they want to, and eat as much as they want to. So try not to keep them awake before bedtime if all they want is to go to sleep.
Because Newborns should be awake for a maximum of 1.5 to two hours during the day, so if it hasn’t been that long, you can try singing them songs, keeping the lights on, and playing with them. If it’s been more than two hours since she last slept, take her to bed.